2012 Year End Book List
Quirky Egg-Headed Organizations
Innovative Investment Organizations and Other Investment-Related Links
Nonprofits and Philanthropy
Investment, Business, Behavioral Finance Books
Other Non-Fiction
Novels, Stories and Poetry
What, You've Read All of Those?
Arts of All Sorts
Odds and Ends
Innovative Ventures

Quirky Egg-Headed Organizations:

National strategic narrative:
Oddly enough, the most encouraging thinking on systemic change that I have found recently has come from (drumroll please)…. The Federal government. I saw Captain Porter and Colonel Mykelby present their summary at the PopTech conference in October, and the audience gave them an even bigger ovation than Reggie Watts.

This is the single most interesting, thought-provoking, coherent, and hopeful commentary I’ve read all year. The fact that it was delivered by two guys with stripes and medals and epaulets all over the place is all the more encouraging. They are not painting a rosy, conflict-free view of the future, but they are reframing the storyline for the United States, from one of fear and defense to one of opportunity and prosperity.  Please read the whole thing (it’s short): National Strategic Narrative.pdf

Project Syndicate
I recently had a mini-crisis while flipping through cable channels (that’ll teach me). There were so many talkers!  It was hard to find the primary inputs – the news or the sports event or the art itself – amidst the layers and layers of deafening commentary.  (We trust that our loyal readers will refrain from noting that Honeybee provides the exact same sort of commentary that we find so distressing in televised form). On the other hand, some commentary is good: informed and insightful. Project Syndicate features Felstein, Dyson, Rogoff, Stiglitz…. Folks with some substance behind their opinions. Even when you disagree (perhaps especially when you disagree), it’s interesting and helpful to consider their views.

Big Think
Have you already watched all of the TED talks, and seen all of the RSA animations?  Check out – the layout makes it look a little bit busy, like any one of a number of “curated” news sites, but the contributors and topics are more unusual – professors, authors, folks who seem to have a slightly longer time horizon and/or unusual mental perch, and thus a more interesting range of opinions. You might not agree with them all, but they present intriguing and provocative points of view.  Recent titles include “Why Quantum Physics Ends the Free Will Debate” by Dr. Kaku of CUNY, where he pits Einstein against Heisenberg; and “How to see the World Like Malcolm Gladwell” by the king of cleverness himself.

Reith Lectures
Does your head feel full of goo after just a few days of sunshine?  If so (and even if not), this is a great time to tune into the Reith Lectures of the BBC.  This year they feature Aung San Suu Kyi, in talks that have been smuggled out of Burma (there is also live Q&A at the end).  The first one has just been released for listening online, and includes references to everyone from Burmese rappers to Anna Akhmatova:

The next series, this fall, will be by the former head of MI-5, the British intelligence agency.  Older lectures are also now available via podcast, and include remarks (recently) by Michael Sandel, Jeffrey Sachs, Wole Soyinka, and (less recently) Bertrand Russell and Robert Oppenheimer.

The return of the citizen scientist? Much has been written about the decline of the amateur scientist – for example, this issue was highlighted by Martin Rees in the Reith Lectures this year.  But here is a project that might engage a lot more people in research while also improving results: on Zooniverse you can classify details of images of the moon, or the Milky Way, and your classifications are mushed-up with everyone else’s to give a more objective analysis of what’s out there than any one researcher ever could.

MIT Center for Bits and Atoms
Way back when, data was separated from computing – this has led to a scaling effect in technology that is really different than scaling in nature. In tech, scaling can be lumpy, and it uses energy even when dormant… whereas in nature, energy is directly related to use/production. This center’s work is focused on the idea that you can GROW tech instead of MANUFACTURING it – so that the computing and the data are re-integrated. The implications are that the means of production will no longer be the source of power or control. Huge decentralization – for computing but also for all that goes with it, like large-scale research… like MIT. See the center’s site.

RSA Animate
The easiest way to find this content is to search for “RSA” on YouTube. Have you ever been to a conference with those cool cartoony note-taker guys, where they illustrate each talk real-time? Well this series does the same thing – it is like listening to a TED talk but seeing it animated before your very eyes – great for all you visual learners, or for those who tend to wander if there is just a person talking without any other stimuli. Dan Pink’s motivation talk (related to his book, Drive), is especially good.

Complexity Digest
This is a great compendium of complexity science – it gives quick summaries of dozens of articles, with easy links to pop through when you are extra-interested.  Opt in to their weekly emails if you wish you could read more thought-provoking things, without hunting through lots of quirky journals page by page.

Encyclopedia of Life
This is the organization inspired by E.O. Wilson, it is a consortium to collect and connect all kinds of data on all kinds of species, both basic and super-scientific.  If this had existed back in the 6th grade, labeling those insect collections would have been a lot easier!  Plus, it might help end malaria and some other important things.

This amazing organization brings together an astonishing assortment of creative folks – artsy types, corporate types, mission-driven types – for their annual conference each fall. Many of the people and organizations affiliated with PopTech have also appeared in Honeybee’s research. Please see their website for video clips of past conferences plus up to date content of all sorts.

MIT Senseable Cities Lab: "Who Needs a Census Anymore?"
Yes it is spelled with an ‘e’, get it? Check out their ‘Real Time Rome’ project, where they tracked cell phone use during the World Cup a few years back – you can actually SEE the game through these patterns, watching people gather in popular bar areas to watch, the phones falling silent at key moments in the match, and then exploding with activity as Italy won. Likewise, in New York, by tracking international calling patterns, they can identify new immigrant communities far more quickly (and probably more accurately) than any official government data. This lab’s work is the perfect display of cool creative uses for new data that is available for the first time – but it also highlights the sort of creepy big brother elements involved. Remember the movie “Minority Report” when they tracked everyone by their eyeballs? Well, if you turn on the tracking or mapping apps on your phone, you are not too far away from that. Here is the lab’s site, it is well worth popping around to see their difference projects.

Columbia's Spatial Information Design Lab
This quote is from LARA KURGAN of COLUMBIA’S SPATIAL INFORMATION DESIGN LAB– they are doing all kinds of cool work with spatial data. For example, check out their maps on the geography of crime vs. the geography of imprisonment. The aggregation of this data in a new format allows for some provocative insights, and challenges traditional views of public policy (for example, the project highlights “million dollar blocks”, where the cost of incarceration of would-be residents tops $1m/year).

Microsoft Research
Microsoft Research is doing all kinds of cool stuff, and most of it is open and free (!). TONY HEY, head of external research at Microsoft, says that computational science was the third paradigm, and data-intensive science is the fourth. He notes that there might be a different role for citizen-scientists in this realm – for example, on WorldWide Telescope (a Microsoft project, at, ‘regular people’ comb through space images to characterize what’s out there. Microsoft research’s other programs can be seen at - contrary to popular opinion of this giant corporate entity, there is a lot of cutting-edge stuff here with a social benefit, and it’s almost all open access. Check out the famous Feynman physics lectures, with footnotes and related links – it is like MTV pop-up videos for nerds (yes, I love it).

Nicholas Feltron
His ‘personal annual report’ is a little bit scary, but mesmerizing (do you know how many bicycle miles you travelled this year? He does!). More importantly, talk about innovative data presentation! Part art, part design, part nouveau tech… you might recognize the style from graphics he has done for some popular magazines as well.

The Good Guide
Here is a more consumer-oriented group: the Good Guide contains all sorts of data on everything from food to toys ( You can see at a glance which baby foods are most nutritious, or which toys have sketchy supply chain issues. The data is still incomplete, but this is a great, user-friendly way to sift through the increasingly-available but increasingly-complex product information that exists. DANIEL GOLEMAN, author of Eco-Intelligence, notes that for the next generation of consumers this data will have always existed, much like the standard nutritional labels on foods that we have now. He and many others seem to think this will automatically lead to more enlightened and responsible consumer choices, but I look at the health and obesity data in the US and think, hmm, I really hope so, but maybe not.

The Santa Fe Institute
The Santa Fe Institute focuses on research of  complex adaptive systems.  Their work is consistently thought-provoking in its multi-disciplinary approach.

TED Conference
Haven’t you heard of the TED conference?  If you have a spare 20 minutes, pop on this site for video clips of incredible thinkers across numerous fields.  Some of my favorites are Jill Bolte Taylor, JJ Abrams, Robert Thurman, Al Gore, Clay Shirky, and Benjamin Zander.  Beware, this site is addictive!
This site asks luminaries questions like “what’s your dangerous idea?”  and “what do you believe, but cannot prove?”  A quick pop through some of the responses is sure to inspire!

Seed Magazine
This is one of my favorite publications – geeky yet still accessible. Science, but not in isolation, rather in relation to all other realms.

Long Now Foundation
The official description of the Long Now Foundation describes their efforts to build a 10,000 year clock (literally), and this is indeed one of their landmark projects. However, the larger point of this group is to foster a longer-term focus (a REALLY longer-term focus). Their work is related to the notion of "layers of time", which describes the flashes of fashion cycles at one end and the centuries-plus clock of nature on the other - a simple but enlightening view of the world (you can see this graphic about this on the right-hand edge of this page: Legendary Stewart Brand, he of the Whole Earth Catalog (and many other things) is the President.

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